As a native of Whitefish, Montana, living minutes from world-class winter sports, Glacier National Park, and the home of the Winter Carnival, I should cherish and love the cold. I do love winter, the season, but I must confess, I don’t love the cold that comes with it. My favorite winter view is next to a fire with great books and a hot cup of tea or coffee, with a glimpse of a gorgeous, snow-filled vista out my window.
That makes me happy. I love being warm, I love hot yoga and steaming saunas, and I adore the sensation of heavy warm blankets when I sleep.
Growing up in a winter wonderland with the reality of cold for six months of the year, I did learn many tricks to stay warm outdoors, including the ability to mentally focus on the warmth in my core muscles, to stay relaxed when out in bitter conditions. I learned how to chop wood and start a fire and find shelter in the forest.
But the truth is that I was a cold wimp — and now, I’m even more so. Years and years of urban pampering, lack of sleep, a large dose of unsolicited stress and an extra serving of desk duty resulted in weight gain — a less-than-desired layer of my own “winter coat.” With the start of a new year, I was on a mission for change. I had heard from trusted sources such as Brian Mackenzie and Gabrielle Reece about the amazing health and performance stories of “The Iceman.” I set out to seek his counsel and participate in a 10-week expedition to better health.
Wim Hof, best known as the Iceman and especially renowned in influential, high-performance circles, has trained his entire life to maximize his personal human potential and to share his insights with others. His website captured my imagination with the comment (or warning), “we can do more than we think we can. And I’m not afraid to die, I’m afraid to not fully live.”
According to Hof, modern conveniences and even clothing have made us less aware of our inner abilities and both weaker and alienated from our true nature and the potential of our physiological powers. Our “inner fire” is the means by which our physiological functions adapt to and survive the natural environment. The disruption of these internal mechanisms also influences our DNA and our immune system.
But strengthening and conditioning our abilities restores our ability to adapt to almost anything the world brings us. The Wim Hof Method is used by athletes, business leaders, artists, naturalists, adventurists and just regular people around the world who seek and train to keep an edge — their own inner fire, under their direct control. Progressive training puts the body into an active state to burn fat, boost immune systems, improve sleep quality and recovery, increase hormone levels, reduce inflammation and increase endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. Hof has put his methodology to the test repeatedly, earning 21 spots in the Guinness Book of World Records for feats including the longest ice bath and marathons in the polar circle.
The scientific community is intrigued by Hof’s ability to control his autonomic nervous system, keeping his core [temperature constant under extreme conditions that would normally result in hypothermia and death. In 2007, the Feinstein Institute studied his methods, and since then, many other medical facilities and experts have collaborated to replicate and investigate applications for his methodologies.
REKINDLING THE FIRE
Not feeling quite ready for a live Inner Fire immersion, I signed up for the 10-week online training and community. I also tracked down Hof and his son Enahm. In between trips to Africa and Tanzania and other exotic locations, they shared strategies, tips and stories to guide my journey in the course.
Hof’s advice to me as a beginner was to “never force,” and “build up gradually.” The progressive process begins with a call for commitment, some self-reflection, measurement of a baseline and a serious review of tangible goals, as well as a metaphysical review of my reason for embarking on this journey — my “why.” That’s because my “why” will serve as the source of the willpower necessary to do the practices when they get uncomfortable.
The course is packed with information and practical exercises that guide the daily study, and coaching videos for the exercises and techniques. It requires a daily commitment of approximately 60 minutes and the practice consists of breath work, cold-therapy conditioning and daily yoga and mind-body stretches. Barring any medical conditions, the method is suitable for all fitness levels and progresses over the course of the 10 weeks.
Want to follow my progress? Tune in weekly at 24Life.com!
To learn more about the Wim Hof Method or to seek your own Inner Fire, you can join the 10-week online InnerFire training designed with the beginner in mind, or follow Hof’s adventures online. Hof also offers live workshops and regular opportunities to go on an expedition with the Iceman.